Daily Republic (Fairfield, Calif.)
August 22, 2005

Fighting fire with planning

By Barry Eberling

VACAVILLE -- Larry Bubak had no complaints when the Vacaville Fire
Protection District stopped by recently to see if he had made his
rural property fire-safe.

He'd rather see firefighters arriving to conduct a safety inspection
than coming to fight a fire, Bubak said.

This Pleasants Valley location is fire country during the summer. Dry
brush could easily fuel a wildfire here, just as it did on the nearby
lands burned four decades ago by the Black Thursday fire.

Bubak's two-decade-old home has tile shingles. He's created a fuel
break near his house. He has a metal barn. He keeps the grass on his
property green.

"I don't know what else to do better," he said.

Vacaville Fire Protection District firefighter Jason Keune looked
around Bubak's property. He gave Bubak a passing grade, with honors.

"If I could make a brochure on a house in the district that is safe,
I'd pick this one," he said.

One of the biggest safety measures is to create fuel breaks around
structures. The district in some cases requires 30 feet, in other
cases 100 feet, depending on the terrain. Fire Capt. Tim Walton said
cutting back the weeds creates a "defensible space."

"Most people cut it down to lawn level, which will slow the fire,"
Walton said. "If they take it down to mineral, dirt or ground, it will
hopefully stop the fire spread."

Another key is to make certain firefighters can reach your property
quickly during a wildfire. Locked gates can hamper firefighting

Walton also advised people to figure out in advance what they'd want
to take with them if a wildfire were to come.

There's no guarantee firefighters can save every home that takes
safety precautions. Burning embers could still blow over a fuel break
and land on a building.

But Bubak is taking the precautions he can. He fought fires as a
volunteer firefighter, including the Black Thursday fire 40 years ago.

"I believe in fire protection," he said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at